Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1
December 19, 2006
1 Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law), how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
1901 ASV Translation:
1 Or are ye ignorant, brethren (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he liveth?
2 For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband.
3 So then if, while the husband liveth, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be joined to another man.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.
- I. The Text in Its Context.
- A. In 6:14 Paul claimed that sin could no longer dominate us because we are "under grace" and no longer "under Law". He made this claim in the light of our "death together with" Christ.
- B. In 7:1 Paul continues the issue of the "Law" -- indicating that he is not "through with" the subject of our freedom from the Law. In this sense, then, Romans 7 fits "under" 6:14 as a further explanation of how the whole process "works". But, 7:4 is heavily dependent upon 6:1-14 also -- further indicating that we have to understand "how this works" by way of understanding the function of "Law".
- 1. The "problem" is that our unity with Christ is presented as "absolute", but our ability to practice that unity is presented as "heavily dependent". The inescapable reality is that those who are "united together with Christ" still produce fruit unto death in this world. This reality challenges the "absoluteness" of the unity. This is the age-old reality of Abraham's God Who calls things that are not as though they are. Abram is Abram but he has no children. Those who "believe" eventually come to the wedding of the absolute reality and the present practice.
- 2. The other "problem" is, apparently, that we do not understand the function of Law and our freedom from that function. This is what chapter seven brings to the table.
- II. The Law's Dominion.
- A. Paul is arguing that the Law addresses specific settings that only apply as long as those who are subject to Law are "living".
- 1. The issue, then, is the Law's "exercise of lordship" over a person.
- a. His "thesis" is that the Law's "lordship" is "time-bound".
- b. The "time" issue relates specifically to the activity called "living".
- 1) There is a bit of a problem in that he has already taught that the "Law" follows a person to the Judgment -- post-death -- and serves there as the criterion of evaluation and condemnation.
- 2) This "problem" is addressed somewhat by his following "illustration" of what he means -- the death of a spouse blocks the applicability of the "Law" that requires the spouse to be "alive" for it to apply.
- 2. But he immediately introduces a "difficulty": the illustration is not about a person who dies; it is about a person who does not die.
- a. There are "laws" and then there are "laws". All sit as "lords" over the interrelationships between persons, but some address "overt" actions and some address "inner motivations". For instance, "Thou shalt not murder" is about an overt action. But, "Thou shalt not covet" is about inner motivation. John, in His explanation of the true sense of the Law, did say that "Thou shalt not murder" actually means "Thou shalt not hate" (1 John 3:15), but that does not erase the reality that there is a difference between "hate" and "murder".
- b. Regardless, however, of the distinctions between these "governors of interrelationships", they all require that both parties be "alive". There can be no "relationship" between the living and the dead, so nothing "applies" if one of the parties dies.
- B. So, the question is: What is Paul trying to establish?
- 1. The Law only governs living relationships. [The reason the "Law" follows a person to the Judgment is that both of the parties in relationship are still "alive" -- God never died and the person being judged has been resurrected. And, though the Judgment is methodologically about what a person had done and why, the real issue is the fact that the doings reveal the complete incompatibility of the person under judgment and the demands of a Kingdom of Righteousness, Peace, and Joy. The doings reveal the absence of the kind of "nature" that life in a Kingdom of Light requires.]
- 2. The Law imposed an "identity" upon any who violated it. This is his claim.
- 3. There is the question of the function of the Law in its "name-calling". Why did the Law call a woman who joined herself to another man while her husband was alive an "adulteress"?
- a. Clearly the name-calling was intended to accomplish something.
- b. The "something" that it accomplished was to make clear that the person was evil and, as an automatic corollary, "not loving", and as a secondary corollary, "not qualified to function in a loving society", and, as a tertiary corollary, "subject to exclusion" from that society by some means.
- 4. This characterization of a person as "evil" had an objective also.
- a. First, it set the gears in motion to provide "relief" for the "victim" in the relationship. In the case of adultery, the adulterer/adulteress was put to death to free the "victim" from the marriage contract.
- b. Then, to characterize someone as evil is an early step in the staircase: to what does it lead?
- 1) Fundamentally, name-calling leads to humiliation. So to what does humiliation lead? The possibilities are two: it can lead to angry rebellion/retaliation, or it can lead to contrition.
- 2) But, name-calling also leads to "judgment" -- the executor(s) of "Law" are supposed to "correct the wrong" to whatever degree is available to them.
- C. Paul's point, then, is that one must "die" to escape one's "evil". This "death" permits the development of a "new" nature that leads to a new identity.